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MTB News & Racing Round-up, Friday, April 18, 2014

Date published:
April 18, 2014, 1:00 BST
  • Neff back to reignite Pietermaritzburg fire

    Current Under 23 women's Cross Country World Champion and Liv Pro Racing Team rider Jolande Neff returns to Pietermaritzburg for the second time in a bid to recreate the magic she showed when she romped to a resounding victory at the UCI MTB and Trials World Championships in 2013 when she takes part in the elite women's Cross Country at first leg of the 2014 UCI MTB World Cup
    Article published:
    April 10, 2014, 21:10 BST
    By:
    Cycling News

    Under 23 world champ to take on the elites at South Africa World Cup

    Having romped to a convincing win in the under 23 women's cross country at the 2013 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Pietermaritzburg, Swiss golden girl Jolanda Neff will be aiming to replicate that performance in the elite women's race at the first leg of this year's UCI World Cup, also in Pietermaritzburg, this weekend.

    Although the world champion is still 21, she races amongst the elites on the mountain bike World Cup circuit but is forced to race in her age group when she competes in the world championships. Currently sitting at fifth in UCI rankings for elite women she has shown she can hold her own amongst the best riders in the world.

    Only riding competitively in Pietermaritzburg once has not changed her view of the upcoming event and with one win from her one appearance she seems to be fairly confident about her chances going into the event in just over three weeks.

    "I absolutely love the track in Pietermaritzburg," the Liv Pro Racing XC Team star said. "It is awesome and suits my style of riding so much and even though I have only ridden on the track once I knew that it was my sort of track!"

    Adapting to conditions is important for riders and being comfortable with what is presented to you makes the challenge less daunting. Neff sees the Pietermaritzburg track as a challenge, but it is a challenge that she enjoys and feels that it is perfectly designed to highlight her skills.

    "The loamy ground and the lengths and gradients of the climbs are things that help, and I also enjoy the technical and rocky downhills as well as all of the other obstacles on the course.

    "As I mentioned, when I rode the course for the first time I thought that the course...

  • Moseley chases Commonwealth Games dream

    Former mountain bike Downhill World Champion Tracey Moseley is taking on the uncharted territory of the women's Cross Country at the 2014 UCI MTB World Cup in an attempt to qualify for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
    Article published:
    April 11, 2014, 13:24 BST
    By:
    Cycling News

    Former downhill world champ hopes to make British cross country team

    Having achieved all that she could in her downhill mountain biking career, former women's downhill world champion Tracy Moseley now has her sights firmly set on a spot on the English cross country team for the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and this weekend's 2014 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Pietermaritzburg will serve as the first step in her qualification process.

    The current women's Enduro World Series champion has not been back to South Africa since 2011 when she tore up the World Cup downhill course, with her 2014 return set to offer an entirely different challenge and something that she is looking forward, despite still waiting for the reality of her new quest to hit.

    "It hasn't really sunk in yet to be honest. This is the first time that I have been down to the track, and it's weird being down here recceing the cross country course!" the 2010 downhill world champion chuckled. "I have ridden a lot of cross country in the past as part of my downhill training, but I never thought that I would be racing it!"

    Having given up on downhill racing a few years ago and then taking to the enduro scene very well with a victory in the first ever Enduro World Championships last year, Moseley feels that enduro is the ideal balance between downhill and cross country.

    "I stopped racing downhill at the end of 2011-2012 and over the last two years, I have been racing enduro, which is almost a mix between downhill and cross country for about four or five hours, so you need to be fit.

    "I actually won the first ever world enduro series last year, so I guess I achieved the ultimate goal in that sport and I am definitely getting to the end of my cycling career so the chance to possibly take a place at the Commonwealth Games was something I thought about last year," the Trek Factory Racing rider said.

    The...

  • NICA adds high school bike racing leagues in Virginia and Alabama

    Left to right: Eddie Freyer (Alabama League director), Grace Ragland (founding committee member), Austin McInerny (NICA executive director), Jeremiah Bishop (Virginia League founding committee).
    Article published:
    April 13, 2014, 14:51 BST
    By:
    Cycling News

    More growth for youth cycling development organization

    The National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA), a youth development organization governing interscholastic mountain biking in the United States, announced Alabama and Virginia as the newest states in its growing nationwide school cycling program, bringing the number of new leagues added in 2014 to three, and the NICA league network to 13.  NICA made the announcement at the Sea Otter Classic on Saturday.

    Austin McInerny, NICA's executive director, said, "The experience and quality of people coming in as organizers to the NICA leagues is very encouraging and I think bodes very well for the future. But not only that, we are making substantial strides toward our goal of coast-to-coast high school mountain biking opportunities by 2020. We have been laying a solid foundation in previous years, and 2014, with 30% growth in the number of NICA leagues, I think is going to be very significant for us."

    One of the key features of NICA is its structural ability to work in concert with existing organizations that have parallel missions. Two of the leagues added in 2014, Virginia and Wisconsin, are built on established existing mountain biking programs.

    NICA now has league clusters in several parts of the United States. Northern California, Southern California and Arizona; Utah and Colorado; Minnesota and Wisconsin; Texas; New York and Virginia; and Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama.

    Opportunities for planned and monitored mountain biking sessions are now available in all of these regions.

    NICA has over 1,300 licensed coaches who are working with 3,500 student-athletes in the USA, giving a very favorable overall supervision ratio of one adult to three student-athletes.

  • Prémont returns to training and racing after becoming a mom

    Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain) at the starting line
    Article published:
    April 15, 2014, 21:45 BST
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Canadian aims to compete at Mont-Sainte-Anne mountain bike World Cup

    A little less than a year after giving birth to her baby girl, cyclist Marie-Hélène Prémont has promised a gradual return to training and hopes to be able to participate in her home UCI Mountain Bike World Cup round in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec, Canada on August 1-3.

    "I'll start with the Canadian Cups at Tremblant and Baie Saint-Paul in May, and if all goes well, I hope to be back on the World Cup circuit in Mont-Sainte-Anne," said the 36-year-old Prémont.

    "First and foremost, I want to see how I feel getting back into competition form, and I will make my decision from there!"

    The participation of the Quebecois favorite at Mont-Sainte-Anne in 2014 will therefore be confirmed in the coming months.

    Prémont is targeting competition in the cross country World Cup race at Mont-Sainte-Anne, but she'll also have the chance to race the eliminator if she chooses. 2014 will be the first time that Mont-Sainte-Anne is also hosting an eliminator round of the World Cup. Another change for this year is the switch of race days with the downhill happening on Saturday and the cross country on Sunday.

    Prémont is a six-time Canadian national champion. The multi-time World Cup winner also earned a silver medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004.

  • Smithfield Rainforest survives Cyclone Ita in countdown to Australian World Cup

    Rebecca Henderson (Trek Factory Racing)
    Article published:
    April 16, 2014, 4:00 BST
    By:
    Cycling News

    All eyes on Cairns for round 2 of UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    In recent days, Far North Queensland in Australia has felt the full effects of Cyclone Ita. Whilst the category one system dumped almost 100mm of rain in Cairns and buffeted the city with wild winds, the damage to property has been minimal and life has quickly returned to normal in the region.

    But plan are still very much on track to welcome the World Cup to Cairns in eight days time for the second round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup. Riders looking to travel to the region to be part of the racing should do so with confidence that the recent weather will not hamper their event experience. The UCI World Cup round 2 will visit Cairns on April 24-27.

    The Cycling Australia Events and Operations team have been monitoring the Smithfield Regional Park closely over the past 48 hours. The course has absorbed considerable rainfall, however despite a couple of trees being uprooted by the strong winds, the damage has been limited.

    "The trails have held up well which is a credit to the integrity of Glen Jacobs and the World Trails crew for their ability to create courses equipped to cope with heavy rainfall," said Steve Peterson Cycling Australia's General Manager - Events. "There is some clean-up and tree clearing taking place today, but much of this work was planned in line with final preparations, so the disruption has been minimal."

    Peterson paid credit to the planning and preparation of the team behind the event, which has been secured for the region together with a similar World Cup event in 2016 and the 2017 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships.

    "The fact that the venue has been able to cope with a natural disaster of this nature is a credit to the vision and hard work of the stakeholders involved," said Peterson. "We now look forward to working together to stage a world class event for the region and...

  • Gwin back to the top at 2014 World Cup opener

    Aaron Gwin of Specialized Racing DH was unstoppable as he claimed first place in the elite men's downhill in Pietermaritzburg and took the early advantage in the 2014 UCI World Cup
    Article published:
    April 16, 2014, 21:03 BST
    By:
    Sue George, with additional reporting by Rob Jones

    Specialized rider leads strong American performance in Pietermaritzburg

    After a disappointing 2013 season, including near misses and injury, Aaron Gwin (Specialized DH) proved he is back among the best by winning the opening round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, this weekend.

    "I'm just happy, really stoked. It is definitely a team win!" said Gwin."The race was great this year! The track was good, the fans - as always - down here are great! I love racing here!

    "From the first practice run I was happy, I like the changes they made to the course and the bike was working, I was working, everything felt good. I knew from the first day that I had a win in me if I could put down my best run but that is a lot easier said than done. Qualifying went well and we just tried to keep the ball rolling."

    Gwin was fastest in both the qualifying and final runs of the elite men's downhill.

    While American riders were conspicuously absent from the top of the cross country standings, they excelled in the gravity races.

    Gwin wasn't the only winner of the weekend; Luca Shaw (SRAM/TLD) earned victory in the junior men's downhill World Cup.

    "I worked really hard this winter, this was always my goal and for it to finally happen is just such a relief and I'm just so happy," said an exhausted Shaw afterwards. "Last year was my first year as a junior and I learned a lot. I feel great this season and a lot smarter this season than I was last so I just can't wait for the rest of the World Cups."

    Other notable American performances came from Jill Kintner, who made the podium with a third place finish in the elite women's race and Neko Mulally (Trek World Racing), who put in his career-best elite men's World Cup performance...

  • 2014 Enduro World Series gets underway in Chile

    Enduro World Series Champion Jerome Clementz
    Article published:
    April 17, 2014, 18:55 BST
    By:
    Cycling News

    Reigning world champs Clementz and Mosely begin title defense

    The enduro mountain bike racing community is headed south, massing in Chile for the first round of the 2014 Enduro World Series (EWS)this weekend, April 19-20.

    Against the backdrop and thin air of the Nevados de Chillan volcano, the enduro course will drop from the steaming vents and high altitude of the volcanic cone around Chile's Nevados de Chillan Bike Park to the densely forested valley floor.

    Many international EWS riders, as well as leading South American athletes, acclimatised at the host organiser's first race in La Parva last week, where reigning EWS World Champion, Jérôme Clementz (Cannondale Overmountain), took the win, just ahead of Nico Lau (Cube Action Team).

    Montenbaik Enduro, the hosts, have spearheaded the growth of enduro in South America over the past six years. Media Director Eduardo de Solminihac is confident that that experience will ensure "that our staff and our Montenbaiker community will give riders and media from all over the world the best experience this weekend. We are very excited to have a MTB world series in Chile for the first time, and to show our best trails."

    In response to feedback and learnings acquired over the EWS' debut season, the Enduro Mountain Bike Association (EMBA) released an updated Rule Book on April 8, (available for download on http://www.enduroworldseries.com/rules.php.)

    "Everyone's constructive feedback has been incredibly valuable to us and we hope that these alterations continue to define and develop enduro mountain bike racing into the future," said Enduro World Series Managing Director, Chris Ball, of the release. Highlights include new measures to ensure the environmental impact of the Series is mitigated, by banning goggle tear-offs and food-caching.

    The six-stage race will see a...

  • Absalon mulls over retirement decision

    Julien Absalon of BMC MTB Racing punches the air after claiming victory in the elite men's cross country in Pietermaritzburg
    Article published:
    April 18, 2014, 11:53 BST
    By:
    Cycling News

    French mountain bike star thinking about when to end his racing career

    Julien Absalon (BMC) claimed the 27th World Cup win of his career on Sunday in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. The French mountain biker has had a long and storied career but it's possible that 2014 will be his last season.

    Absalon will decide in six weeks whether to end his career with this season according to accrossthecountry.net.

    The four-time cross country world champion and Olympic champion has spent the past few years duelling with the younger Nino Schurter (Scott Odlo). The two stars have produced some epic battles, some of which have been decided by sprints, some by late race attacks and some by mechanicals. On Sunday, a mechanical influenced the outcome as Schurter flatted with two laps to go while at the front with Absalon.

    The World Cup round in Albstadt, Germany on June 1 is the next target for Absalon and afterward he expects to make his decision.

    "My focus in the first half of the season is on Albstadt . I like this course very much - it seems like it was made for me. After my failure last year [due to a mechanical], I was extremely disappointed. Therefore, it would be nice to come back and win there."

    He said several weeks ago that he was going to decide whether to race in 2015 and much of that decision will probably rest upon whether he still feels like he can compete with Schurter and current Olympic champion Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized).